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Native Language

 
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Album Review

by Nioshi Jackson

Innovative. Invigorating. Impressive.

These are just three of many words that could be used to describe the debut release of mandolinist Isaac Eicher’s “Native Language.”

“Native Language,” although being released this year, has been in the works since 2009. At that time Eicher was a freshly enrolled student at University of Oklahoma when he first fell in love with the Spanish language. He began to study voraciously to the point that he even went abroad to Valencia, Spain to fully immerse himself in the culture.

One could think that a mandolinist, who’s won first place prizes in national competitions such as Walnut Valley Mandolin Championship and Rockygrass, would naturally make a bluegrass style record.

But not Isaac Eicher.

Sure, he loves the roots of bluegrass, but he had a desire to take his instrument to different musical landscapes. His curiosity for jazz and Latin music found Eicher creating a highly unique record along with producer Jonathan Rogerson.

Along with Rogerson, Eicher has managed to assemble a group of world class musicians to accompany him on his quest of musical expression, rounding out the main quartet with Nashville-based percussionist Bryan Brock on cajón and cymbals and Patrick Atwater on upright bass. “Native Language” also showcases Eicher’s compositional skills. Free from the need to define his musical “genre,” he wrote or co-wrote the majority of the album’s ten songs with a sense of maturity that is well beyond his years.

One listen to “Western,” (the opening track) or “Valenciana” and you’ll instantly hear and feel the Latin influences. But, then on the cut “Between Bristow and Stroud” you’ll think you’re in an Irish pub, enjoying a pint of Guinness. Eicher’s band moves as if they’re one, playing in sync and focusing their skills on magnifying the voice of the mandolin, no matter where the cultural influences take them.

To help Eicher complete his vision, he employed a little help from his friends. “Easier” was sung and co-written with Lindsay Lou, and “Salto” was sung and co-written with Marcela Pinilla, who Eicher frequently collaborates with.

He also had contributions from fellow instrumentalists, such as Jeff Goodkind, who contributed his composition “Eminence,” along with providing the lone piano track on the album. “Soundscapes” features saxophonist Miguel Alvarado, and “Between Bristow and Stroud” showcases the talents of Eli Bishop on fiddle.

The most amazing quality of this recording is Eicher’s ability to maintain continuity through his music, regardless of the style, by his unique approach to the mandolin. He is equally comfortable in a jazz setting as he is a bluegrass setting, or even playing funk!

Eicher is pushing the mandolin forward with an unfettered mentality that makes his artistry stand out. “Native Language” is the proof that Isaac Eicher is the rising star to watch for! Enjoy!

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Isaac Eicher

 

Tulsa native Isaac Eicher grew up in a musical household and started playing the mandolin at 9 years old.  He inherited a multifarious taste of music from his parents, who are both well-accomplished artists- violinist Shelby Eicher and vocalist Janet Rutland.  Eicher's parents played all styles of music including jazz, bluegrass and western swing, in their home as he was growing up.  In his teen years, Eicher evolved into an extraordinary musician and began to compete on a national level, winning first place prizes at the Walnut Valley Mandolin Championship in 2006 and Rockygrass in 2010.

 

After graduating high school in 2009, Eicher's musical journey took a very interesting turn.  He enrolled in the University of Oklahoma, and developed a new interest: language arts.  Eicher became enamored with the Spanish language and learned it very quickly.  To further his studies, he went abroad to Valencia, Spain, to immerse himself fully in the culture.  With mandolin in tow, Eicher’s musical style became greatly impacted by the pursuit of learning Spanish.   He began to incorporate world music styles like gypsy swing, Brazilian samba, and Cuban montunos to his already strong foundation in jazz and bluegrass music.

 

Currently, Eicher resides in Nashville, Tennessee.  He performs live with a wide range of artists, such as Marcela Pinilla, Giovanni Rodriguez and Rebecca Frazier, to name a few.  Producers and recording artists also call upon Eicher for his specific sound on the mandolin for their projects. This year, Eicher released his debut solo album “Native Language,” featuring original music arranged for an acoustic quartet.  A tour for the release is scheduled for the fall.